Attention to breathing and breathing sessions are part of the Tibor approach. Those sessions are facilitated by Kasper van der Meulen, the author of “Mindlift”. One of the clients on Operatie Doorbraak is a breathing coach who has been trained by Kasper and a few other breathing gurus. His name is Ruud van de Wiel, and he became my breathing coach. It is highly recommended and will open your eyes.
Because breathing is the new black. Read “Breath”. Breathing should be something you should think about.
Liana, my lovey-dovey, has just started a business focussing on Ayurveda. Once you begin to think about health, you realise that some of the most natural things we do, such as breathing, eating, moving, thinking, drinking, are completely f.**.d up by our current lifestyle. You should begin by (re-)teaching yourself to breathe correctly.
The Oxygen Advantage
Patrick McKeown is another renowned breathing coach. He wrote “The Oxygen Advantage: The simple, scientifically proven breathing technique that will revolutionise your health and fitness”. There is an intelligence that operates within our bodies, far greater than that within the mind. The human body is a miracle and operates on such a vast innate intelligence that it is unlikely human beings will ever be able to produce comparable technology. Starting with your breathing.
Your lungs are amazing. The lungs contain approximately 300 million alveoli, each of which is surrounded by tiny blood vessels called capillaries. To put this immense number in context, the area of contact between your alveoli and blood capillaries is equivalent to the size of a tennis court. During periods of rest, the standard breathing volume for a healthy person is between 4 and 6 litres of air per minute, which results in almost complete oxygen saturation of 95 to 99 per cent. The human body actually carries a surplus of oxygen in the blood – 75 per cent is exhaled during rest, and as much as 25 per cent is exhaled during physical exercise.
Breathing through your nose
There are two main aspects to the way you breathe: the number of breaths you take in the space of 1 minute; and the volume or amount of air drawn into your lungs with each breath. Although the two are separate, one generally influences the other. You should breathe through your nose. It is well documented that habitual mouth breathing during waking and sleeping hours results in fatigue, poor concentration, reduced productivity and a bad mood. Nose breathing imposes approximately 50 per cent more resistance to the air stream in normal individuals than does mouth breathing, resulting in 10 to 20 per cent more O2 uptake. Nasal breathing warms and humidifies incoming air. Nasal breathing removes a significant amount of germs and bacteria from the air you breathe in. Nasal breathing during physical exercise allows for a work intensity great enough to produce an aerobic training effect as based on heart rate and percentage of VO2 max. The nose is a reservoir for nitric oxide, an essential gas for the maintenance of good health.
In the human body, nitroglycerine – the same material used to make explosives – converts to the gas nitric oxide to provide amazing cardiovascular health benefits. Sometimes referred to as the mighty molecule, nitric oxide is produced within the 100,000 miles of blood vessels throughout the human body, including the paranasal sinuses surrounding the nasal cavity. Nitric oxide sends a signal for the blood vessels to relax and dilate. Nitric oxide plays a monumental role in human health by reducing cholesterol, reversing the build-up of plaque in the blood vessels, and preventing blood clotting. As we breathe in through the nose, nitric oxide will follow the airflow to the lungs, where it increases the amount of oxygen uptake in the blood.
We have been breathing for millions of years
For hundreds of thousands of years, breath-holding was practised extensively by our ancestors for the purposes of foraging for food by diving in a deep water environment, and some evolutionary theorists even suggest that it might have been responsible for a number of unique human features. Taoism’s traditional Chinese practice succinctly describes ideal breathing as ‘so smooth that the fine hairs within the nostrils remain motionless’. True health and inner peace occur when breathing is quiet, effortless, soft, through the nose, abdominal, rhythmic and gently paused on the exhale.
Generally, most humans can hold their breath after an inhalation for a maximum of up to about 50 seconds, with elite divers achieving a static breath hold of between 8 minutes 23 seconds and 11 minutes 35 seconds. Gently exhaling before holding the breath reduces air content in the lungs, allowing a quicker build-up of carbon dioxide and eliciting a stronger response. While this reduces the length of time you can hold your breath, increased carbon dioxide has been shown to improve haemoglobin concentration by around 10 per cent compared to a breath-hold with normal carbon dioxide levels. By exhaling and holding the breath, nitric oxide is able to pool in the nasal cavity so that when breathing resumes, air laden with nitric oxide is inhaled into the lungs.
One way of tapping into your own natural resources is to purposely subject the body to reduced oxygen intake for a short period of time. You are probably breathing too much. You need to increase your ability to do more with less. To measure, you can use the Body Oxygen Level Test or BOLT test. How long can you hold your breath before you have the impulse to take your next breath? The aim should be over 40 seconds. Only with a high BOLT score of 40 seconds is breathing volume at a normal level. Anything less indicates habitual over-breathing. When you are able to walk a total of 80 paces with the breath held, your nose will remain decongested. Improve your BOLT score by 10 seconds, and you will find your appetite changing. Improve your BOLT score to 40 seconds, and your life will change. Walking or jogging with nasal breathing allows the body to work with oxygen (aerobically). While incorporating breath holds every minute or so makes the bodywork without oxygen (anaerobically). Research has shown that breath-holding exercises can improve an individual’s tolerance to hypoxemia (low levels of oxygen in the blood) and reduce the acidity of the blood, eliminating oxidative stress and reducing lactic acid build-up.
BOLT and stillness
It also helps with mediation. A still mind can be attained through having a high BOLT score, using meditation and developing awareness of the mind – nothing else. By following the breath and bringing attention to the inner body, we are able to bring our attention to the present moment.
We no longer give each other our undivided attention, and neither do we take the time to observe our own breathing or allow our minds to still. The importance of being able to control and still the mind cannot be overestimated. An athlete with a quiet mind will enjoy good powers of concentration and be able to enter the flow zone at will.
Being in the flow means that no boundaries exist between you and the activity you are involved in. The player and the game become one. The ego – which is the fictitious story that we create about ourselves – is left behind. Conscious thinking ceases, and the athlete acts spontaneously. Any sense of self-consciousness is set aside, allowing full concentration and focus to be obtained. Being in the flow allows for a still, quiet mind, undistracted by conscious thoughts. In essence, the body knows what to do – the mind simply needs to get out of the way. An athlete at peak performance does not think. The zone is nothing more than performing in the absence of thought. Being able to focus without distracting thoughts defines concentration, a vital attribute for the proper execution of any action and the achievement of any goal.
Some other tips
- Moderate-intensity exercise, such as a brisk walk, light jog or cycle ride – increase the production of nitric oxide and improved blood flow throughout the body.
- Drink beetroot juice.
- Essential nitric oxide-producing, heart-protecting food sources to include in your diet include fish, green vegetables, dark chocolate, red wine (a glass per day – not the bottle!), pomegranate juice, green or black tea and oatmeal porridge.
Hold your breath more, breathe through your nose, eat chocolate, drink wine. How bad?